‘Ealanta: The Golden City’ Full First Chapter

Hello, friends!

I’m here today to share the first chapter of Ealanta: The Golden City with y’all. If you enjoy it, I hope you’ll pick up a copy when it releases next month! I am so excited to let this book out into the world. It’s truly a delight to share the land of Ealanta with you all.

one

THE CANVAS GLOWS WITH SANDS that shine like mottled gold beneath a blazing sun for as far as the eye can see. Through the strokes of the brush, she can feel the heat beating off the ground, churning up hazy mirages, and parching the back of her throat. Far in the distance, monolithic spheres glitter and shine. She wonders if they could roll away with a strong enough wind, and she knows that’s where she’s going next. 

MARGOT LAID HER BRUSHES ASIDE and took a deep breath. The child growing in her womb rustled, echoing the stirring in her heart. She stroked her belly and whispered, “I know, sweetheart. I know. What do you think it means? Daddy will have the answers, huh? He always does.” But then her heart sank as she thought of telling Asa about the return of her gift and how it spoke of another adventure. 

Asa had been so happy since they saved the Gaols from the ghostly plane. She’d been happy, too. They had a comfortable life now. Saoirse was a beautiful, peaceful place, and the Gaols were thankful to have their lives back. No one took a single day for granted.  No one forgot how lucky they were to be free. 

Asa was no exception. He and Margot, as King and Queen of Saoirse, had an easy job. What troubles could a society like theirs have?

Their children had grown into smart and precocious little people. They made their parents proud every day. 

Penny was an empathetic girl who wanted to be a doctor when she grew up. While trapped in the ghostly plane, when the veil became thin, she observed a hospital. There, she saw doctors and nurses treating patients, and it inspired her to want to take care of the sick in Saoirse. Her gift, now, was only beginning to manifest, but it was likely of the healing sort. Margot was eager to see how it would develop and to nurture it as her parents had done for her. Penny was young yet, and every Gaol’s gift came to them at different ages and at their own pace.

Every few days, Adam brought home injured creatures and nursed them back to health. It was clear he would one day become Saiorse’s version of a veterinarian. For now, he was content to tend to the animals he could help in small ways. Asa felt a strong connection to his son; their gifts were much the same — a link to Ealanta. Asa could communicate with Her in a profound spiritual way, and Adam’s came through animals. He was very young, but his gift had already manifested. Asa was so very proud. 

The baby stirred in her belly, waking Margot from her reverie. She placed her hand on it. The baby was the biggest reason not to tell Asa about the painting. She was heavy with his child, due in two months. They were ecstatic for the delivery, and to be new parents again. 

They had a comfortable, happy life together, now, in Saoirse. But she couldn’t ignore her gift. Even as she sat there with her hand on her belly, she could feel the voice inside her urging her on. It was the same one that summoned her to Cabin 42 and to Joy Love. The very same which led her to Asa. She could not ignore it any more than she could ignore her love for her family. It was a part of her. 

But would Asa understand? Because whatever this meant, it wasn’t meant for her. She couldn’t go on this quest. She couldn’t leave Saoirse. So, what was her role in this other than the messenger?

I should talk to Adelaide, she thought, and it made the most sense of anything all night.

THE NEXT MORNING, AFTER ASA left for his morning walk, Margot brought Adelaide into her studio. 

“Wow,” Adelaide said, her words breathless and airy. “It’s beautiful, Margot.” The vibrancy of the piece stunned her into near silence. She’d heard many tales of Margot’s talent, but seeing it in person was another thing entirely. 

“Thank you. I didn’t bring you here to brag about my painting skills, though. It’s more than that.”

Adelaide could sense the tension in Margot’s voice. She turned to watch her friend as she eased her large form into a plush armchair. Margot gestured for her to sit near her. She sat down and searched Margot’s eyes. “What is it?”

“This is the first painting I’ve done with my gift since I returned to Ealanta.”

“Whoa! Are you serious? What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I need your help to work through it. The last time I painted with my gift like this, it led me here. To you and Asa.”

“But I’ve seen you in here many times since you’ve been back; surely, this isn’t the first time? Maybe you’re mistaken?” Adelaide looked at the other canvases in the room and couldn’t deny there was a clear difference between them. Margot was talented, no doubt about it, but the one she’d done of the Golden City was different. It was more alive somehow. It was as though she could step through the canvas and into the city if she got close enough. The more she looked at it, the more it pulled her in. Margot painted it with the same set of oils and the same stretched canvas as the others, but it sparkled with a brilliance that came from somewhere paranormal.  

“I’m not mistaken. These other paintings were to keep my technique sharp. With this kind of piece, there’s a little voice inside of me that guides my hand.” Margot furrowed her brow and sighed. “I’ve always called it a voice, but perhaps that isn’t the best description. It’s like that little inner voice we call our conscious, but not? Do you get what I mean?”

Adelaide thought for a moment and nodded her head.

“It’s that kind of voice. And it’s strong. I have to listen to it. It’s stronger than a gut instinct. It’s, like, the opposite of guilt. Guilt makes you feel an awful sinking, feeling deep in your gut that pulls you down. This feeling has the same pull, but it lifts me and pulls me toward something instead. Does that make any sense at all?”

“It does. It’s different, but when I use my magic, there’s a feeling like that. When it flows through me, it pulls from deep within me. It overtakes my entire body. My emotions go numb, and I become one with the magic. It’s powerful and freeing and kind of scary. It’s scary because it’s how some become corrupted. It’s easy to get so caught up in that feeling. Is it like that for you with the voice?”

“In a way, I suppose. Before I got to Ealanta, I used to do nothing but paint. My parents worried about me because I never left my room. All I did was paint portraits of the people here and the landscapes of Ealanta. I was obsessed with my life here, even though I had no idea what it all meant. I was addicted to the feeling I got when I heeded the voice. I was lonely and out of place in my life on Earth. I didn’t fit in there, and I longed to find my place so very much. I found it through my art.”

“So, what do you think this voice is telling you now? Why has your gift returned now?” Adelaide asked.

“It’s telling me I — or we — need to go to this Golden City.”

Adelaide’s eyes widened.

“Oh. Dang.”

“Yeah,” Margot said, her arms instinctively wrapping around her swollen belly. “What am I supposed to do with that?”

“You have to tell Asa.”

“But what if he’s upset about it? He’s been so happy, Adelaide. He’s so happy with his life here in Saoirse. He’s got a good life here. He’s content. What if he doesn’t want to tear that up to go on some crazy adventure again. You know what it was like the last time!” Margot’s voice rose in a frenzy. Tears sprung to her eyes, and her throat tightened.

“It’ll be okay, Margot,” Adelaide said, taking Margot’s hand. Margot’s trembled and clung to her. “We’ll figure it out either way, and Asa loves you more than anything in the world. He’ll understand. You know that.”

The women were grateful for one another. They grew close during their adventure to reunite the Mayons and bring back the Gaols. Their hearts entwined like the roots of an ancient tree, as though they had known each other always. They felt each other’s pain and joy alike.

“I’m sorry. My hormones are all over the place. This baby is making me crazy. I can’t help it,” Margot said, trying to make light of her reaction, but she couldn’t deny she the terror she felt deep down. “I’m scared to tell him, Adelaide. I don’t want to disrupt his life. I don’t want to disrupt yours either. Let’s face it; it’s not like I can go away on some grand adventure right now.” She gestured to her womb with a strained chuckle.

Adelaide reached over and rubbed Margot’s belly. The baby inside kicked against her hand, and both women looked at each other with big grins. It broke the tension, and Adelaide said, “No, you can’t, but honey, don’t worry about disrupting me. I’m keen on going on another adventure.”

“What? You are?” Margot looked at her friend with wide eyes.

“Are you kidding me? Of course, I am! I love my life here in Saoirse, but I felt alive when we saved the Gaols. I’ve spent the time since honing my magic, and I’ve come into myself. If I could do something like that again, why wouldn’t I jump at the chance?”

Margot half-sobbed, half-sighed, and put her head in her hands. 

“Oh, Margot,” Adelaide said, jumping from her seat and falling to her knees before her friend. She wrapped Margot in her arms and pulled her hands from her face, searching her eyes for the matter. “I’m sorry! Please, tell me what’s wrong. I didn’t mean to upset you. I didn’t mean to make it worse. I’m so sorry.”

“No, no. You’ve made me happy.” Margot took Adelaide’s face in her hands and held it. She was a little ashamed at how emotional the pregnancy made her, but she wasn’t going to begrudge any part of the experience. “Gosh, you’re beautiful, Adelaide.”

Both women giggled at that; for, Adelaide hated when anyone told her she was beautiful. Margot often told her she was like a pixie,  whatever that was. Coming from Margot, she knew it had to be something lovely. 

Adelaide rolled her eyes and released Margot’s hands. She kissed her palms and said, “I’m glad it makes you happy, my friend. I mean it. I would be ecstatic to find this Golden City, wherever it is. I believe in your gift, Margot. One hundred percent. So, let’s tell Asa and figure out where to go from here.”

“That means more to me than you know. That you believe in my gift.”

“Why wouldn’t I? It got you here. It got me you. Your gift is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

“I love you,” Margot said, reaching over her huge belly to hug her friend.

“I love you, too! But you better be careful. We’re gonna squish the kid.” 

As if the baby could understand her words, it ended their conversation with a sharp kick. The women burst into laughter.

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Escaping Midnight (What Goes On in the Walls at Night Book 3’ by Andrew Schrader

‘Escaping Midnight (What Goes On in the Walls at Night Book 3)’ by Andrew Schrader

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5

Finished on July 15, 2019

FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $3.99 on Kindle | $13.99 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

The ‘What Goes On in the Walls at Night’ saga returns for the third time with fifteen more chilling, thought-provoking tales. 

An heiress imprisons her husband’s consciousness for an out-of-body revenge . . .

In the future, teens are scanned and punished for eventual crimes . . .

Could New Year’s 2026 trigger a techno police state?

MY REVIEW:

‘Escaping Midnight’ seamlessly combines science-fiction, fantasy, and horror into an experience, unlike anything you’ve had before. These stories are masterfully crafted and mind-bendingly immersive. This series shines in all three genres. 

Schrader has become one of my favorite authors. This collection of chilling, weird tales is one I can see myself reading and rereading for years. And, no doubt, I will find new and exciting things about them to appreciate every time. These stories are complex, thought-provoking, and deeply scary. Schrader uses the human experience to craft some of the best horror stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I believe he’ll one day rank among the legends of his genres. 

Book covers don’t usually influence my reviews, or help me choose a new read all that often. It feels like an oversight not to mention this series’ covers, though. I love the design of these. They are trippy, fun, and oh-so-reminiscent of classic cult novels of decades past. I’ve honestly never seen a cover better depict a book’s contents. They are stunning in paperback, and I’m thrilled to have them on my shelf.

If you haven’t read this series yet, what are you waiting for? 

Three Weeks Later | How I’m Doing

It’s been three weeks since my miscarriage. 

This post is going to be stream of conscious because that’s what I need right now. I apologize if it’s disjointed or whatever.

I went in for my follow-up with my gynecologist on the 15th. While there, she confirmed that my body had taken care of it, and I wasn’t going to need a D&C or any other sort of procedure. That’s the one good thing about this whole thing, really. The ultrasound confirmed something I’d been slightly suspicious of but wasn’t sure — I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). 

She explained to me that my ovaries have many small cysts on them. She said they call the size and way they’re spread out chocolate chipping. It sounds a lot more fun than it is. 

Symptoms of PCOS that I have experienced are weight gain/difficulty losing weight, excessive body hair, and irregular periods. Miscarriages (especially early ones like I had) and trouble getting pregnant are also very common with PCOS.

My gynecologist recommended that I come back in for some PCOS specific blood work six weeks after the miscarriage and possibly starting a Metformin regimen. Metformin is supposed to help regulate the symptoms of PCOS and make it easier to get/stay pregnant. I’ve already gotten the prescription, but I haven’t started it yet. I want to get the blood work and stuff done first before I add another medication to my daily routine.

She advised me that if I lost at least 20lbs, I would get pregnant a lot easier. She estimated I would get pregnant within six months if I lost the weight. Overall, even if I can’t lose the weight, she seemed pretty confident in my ability to get pregnant again, so that felt pretty good.

For the first few days after the diagnosis, I was very upset. It felt like yet another way my body has betrayed me. That’s been one of the hardest things about this whole thing — not being angry at my body. I’m working on it, but I’m struggling with it.

The day I got home from the appointment, I had my first real breakdown. 

If you’re familiar with my story, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with losing weight for about ten years — since I started my current regimen of antiretroviral therapy. These meds cause permanent fat deposits in various parts of the body that are damn near impossible to get rid of. Really, the only options to get rid of them are stopping the meds (not possible) and plastic surgery. Even if I were to get plastic surgery to remove them, as long as I’m on the medications, the deposits will come back. 

I struggled hard with this for years. I still have bad days, but I’ve finally gotten to a place where I don’t absolutely hate my body. I have many posts in the past regarding this, so I won’t get too far into it. I still struggle with feeling triggered by diet stuff. I tried so many things to lose the weight from a daily injectable drug to vegetarianism. I developed a borderline (maybe even full-blown) eating disorder from it all. I am much better now, but I don’t ever want to control my eating — or have my eating control me — like that again. 

So, the PCOS diagnosis and her recommendation that I lose weight was a trigger. My partner has lost a good amount of weight doing the keto diet. Out of kindness and a desire to help, he offered to work out with me every day, etc. It upset me. I felt like he didn’t get it. It’s real easy for a healthy, pain-free person to recommend diet and exercise when they have no idea what it’s like for someone with chronic illness/pain. 

I felt like he was telling me, “Why can’t you just work out every day? Why can’t you just eat less and lose weight?” It pissed me off. I am in pain constantly. Every day of my life, and when I’m really hurting, the last thing in the world I want to do is exercise. That on top of the lipo from my meds makes the whole thing really hard. The whole thing is really complex and complicated for me on so many levels.

I snapped at him. I feel bad about it now, but he understands. I wasn’t really upset about losing weight. I was upset about everything that has happened. It was easier for me to get pissed off about the pressure to lose weight than it was for me to acknowledge my sadness. That’s essentially been the story of my life. Anger is easier than grief. 

Since then, I have had mostly okay days. I get very sad at night or when I see pregnancy/baby posts on social media. I have temporarily hidden/unfollowed most everyone I know who’s pregnant or has small kiddos. I just can’t handle it right now, and I don’t know when I will be able to again.

I am not a crier. I will cry at animal videos on Facebook, but that’s about it. I never cry for myself. I honestly cannot tell you the last time I cried before this whole thing happened. When I was in therapy, she used to ask me why I turned it off like a faucet every time I get even the slightest bit teary. After my dad died, I told myself I had cried enough in my life. That I would never cry again, and I really haven’t. After the miscarriage, I had one small cry on the ride home, and one the next day when my partner sent me a video of a double rainbow he saw on his way to work. It felt like a sign. I felt like I needed to cry, but I just couldn’t. Even when I want to cry, it doesn’t work for me.

I finally had one big, sloppy, sob a couple of nights ago. A friend of mine posted a graphic on Facebook with a baby’s footprint that said: “I will always wonder who you would have been.” It gutted me. I sat in my living room, alone, and sobbed so hard I scared my dog. Since then, I’ve felt a tiny bit better. Crying is good for us and has its place; I know that. It’s hard to break a multi-decade habit, though.

I have come to terms with the PCOS diagnosis. I’m glad to know what’s going on and to have a plan of action for the future. I’m still pissed that I’ve added yet another diagnosis to my list, but it could be a lot worse. 

My partner and I have had a lot of meaningful discussions about feelings, expectations, and the future. Even though he didn’t really have a chance to form a bond with the baby, he understands that I did. He’s been extremely supportive and understanding. I am thankful for him every day.

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with is feeling like, “Am I allowed to be sad about this? I knew I was pregnant for such a short time. The pregnancy was not very far along.” Logically, I know I am allowed to be sad. That the duration doesn’t really matter, but I can’t help but wonder. 

I’ve had a lot of experience with grief in my life, but this one is different. Every other loss in my life has felt more like something uncontrollable that’s happened to me. There was nothing I could do to stop my parents’ or my brother’s deaths. They were going to happen no matter what I did. This, though, feels different. Despite knowing, intellectually, there is nothing I could have done or nothing I did wrong to make it happen; I can’t help but wonder what I could have done differently. It’s a much harder loss to wrap my mind around as a whole.

I’m getting there, though. I know the pain will never go away entirely, but every day is a little bit easier.

I’m thinking about getting a custom piece of jewelry to honor the baby. I think it may help me to have some sort of memorial. I’m not sure yet, but I’m thinking about it.

Oh, and before I wrap this up, I have to acknowledge the overwhelming amount of kindness we have received from friends since this happened. I never, in my life, expected such an outpouring of love and tenderness from folks. Even from people I have barely spoken to in years. I can’t ever express how helpful and touching it’s been, truly. If you’re one of the people who checked on me every day for weeks, sent us a card or a gift, or messaged me with your own story, I will never forget your kindness. It has done a lot to help heal my heart.

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘Wrath of God’ by Verne R. Albright

‘The Wrath of God’ by Verne R. Albright

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5

Finished on June 28, 2019

GIVEN FREE COPY FOR REVIEW

FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $4.99 on Kindle | $15.95 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Henning Dietzel’s attempt to rebuild his businesses — destroyed by a massive tidal wave — is complicated by a desire to also enjoy a satisfying personal life. 

His keen eye for opportunity allows him to eventually accumulate a massive agricultural empire. Over the decades, his fortunes rise and fall due to three devastating wars, battles against a brutal competitor, and more. 

Henning’s business savvy may accrue him property and money, but it does not make it easy for him to have a well-balanced life. Addicted to his work, he struggles to balance his work with the desires of his heart.

He courts the beautiful Martine Prado. She is seemingly unattainable — a Peruvian aristocrat who rejects any and all authority over her. She believes women should never bow down to men. It’s an admirable quality far ahead of her time, but it makes for a hard-won love for Henning.

MY REVIEW:

I have never been much of a fan of historical fiction, but I thoroughly enjoy Albright’s work. He manages to weave a compelling tale with real-life historical events seamlessly. His writing doesn’t feel bogged down with detail, yet after reading it, you walk away feeling like you’ve not only been told a complete and fascinating story, but that you’ve learned something, too.

Henning is a lovely character. He’s smart, worldly, and compassionate. He’s a humanitarian who believes in treating all people equal in a society that largely doesn’t. It’s easy to root for him, and it’s easy to see why he’s successful when other men aren’t.

The love story between Henning and Martine feels real. Their union is not an easy one. He loves her from the moment he meets her, but she struggles to set break down the emotional walls she’s built over her life and allow him in. His tendency to put work above everything else does not help, either.

This novel spans the course of many years, but nowhere does it feel rushed or slow. As an author, I know just how difficult time jumps can be to achieve without feeling jerky or overwhelming. Albright has done a great job. 

I thought this book was even better than the first, ‘Playing Chess with God’. We learn more about the heart and life of Henning Dietzel, and the series rounds off with a satisfying ending. 

[Roxie Reviews] | ‘NET 2.3: The Novelettes of T.E. Mark – Vol. III’ by T.E. Mark

‘Net 2.3: The Novelettes of T.E. Mark — Vol III’ by T.E. Mark

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5/5

Finished on June 10, 2019

GIVEN FREE COPY FOR REVIEW

FREE on Kindle Unlimited | $3.99 on Kindle | $12.99 in Paperback

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Volume Three of his Novelettes, T. E. Mark has delivered four engaging stories with imaginative plots, meaningful themes and clever twists.

To prevent her own death and that of her future daughter’s in a mass shooting in 2033, a driven teen hacker has accessed an experimental FBI project and is eliminating every mass killer in NY State 14 years in the future. COROS 

A professor of nanotechnology tries to free a young woman, now rendered a captive experiment, who has undergone a startling transformation following a revolutionary procedure to eradicate a brain tumour. ENGINES 

What is real or merely the appearance of reality is explored in this mind-bending, thriller with a gifted young programmer, on the run from everyone, designing virtual playgrounds for wealthy executives. NET 2.3

In this dramatic tale filled with intrigue and twists, a man must choose between his life and his memories when he’s visited by a mysterious pair of time travellers from Earth’s future. TIME AGAIN 

MY REVIEW:

T.E. Mark’s short stories are wonderfully-crafted and darkly poignant. His writing style is a unique — blending screenplay and novel into an engaging new way of storytelling. His style takes a little time to get used to if you’ve never read his work before, but it doesn’t take long for the reader to become immersed in his world.

All of the tales in ‘Net 2.3’ can be read as standalone stories but, together, they tell a larger story about the possible pitfalls of humanity and technology. 

My favorite story has to be “ENGINES”. Using nanotechnology, doctors have managed to cure disease. They are elated when their breakthroughs cure a young woman, Rainie Zhao, of a cancer that would surely have killed her. But their nanobots are far more advanced than they realize. They rapidly de-age Rainie and give her abilities no one could have ever foreseen.

Every story in this collection is superbly done. It’s not often you come across a collection of stories in which none of them is a dud — this is one of those rare finds.

If you’re a fan of science fiction, do not pass this collection up. It’s not to be missed. 

Update to Review Policy

I have enjoyed reviewing so many books over the last several years, and the connections I’ve made with other authors has been lovely. Unfortunately, I think it’s time for me to make some changes. 

When I started this, I never imagined the number of books I would be offered to review. I thought this was just going to be something I did for fun for books I would have read anyway. Since then, I have read outside my typical genres and been opened up to writers I would have never known about otherwise. That’s pretty amazing.

But things change. Life changes. Our priorities change. 

Reviewing is still something I enjoy doing, but over the last several months, it has become more of an obligation than anything else. My TBR has grown so massive that just thinking about it can make me feel anxious. Like anyone else, I would like to read books of my choosing sometimes, but I’ve felt guilty every time I’ve made that choice. That’s absolutely an unnecessary stress in my life. Reading is how I decompress. It’s my primary form of self-care. It’s not supposed to make me feel bad.

As a chronically ill person, I only have so much energy to use each day (and that amount changes from day-to-day). I’m also an author, and I’ve found that too often lately, I have had to take time and energy away from my work to write reviews. This makes it take much longer than it should for me to get my work ready for the world.

For a long time, I didn’t mind sacrificing my own work to help other authors in their writing journeys but, over time, the negatives have outweighed the positives. 

I don’t get paid to write reviews. I do it because I like helping out the community. I don’t write short, generic reviews. I put a lot of thought and work into them. Some of my reviews are thousands of words long! Too often, though, I feel like I’m putting out more than I receive. I have reviewed hundreds of books. I’ve reached out to just as many reviewers regarding my work and have gotten less than a handful of reviews in return.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think this needs to be tit-for-tat. I don’t expect the authors I review for to return the favor, but it would sure be nice if I felt like other people gave my work the same time and attention I give to theirs. 

Also, I am tired of being hounded by authors about when their review will go live. I wish more authors gave the same respect to the work of other authors/reviewers as they expect of their own. Yes, your book is special and important, but so is every other author’s work. Being messaged over and over is exhausting, and I got to the point where I dreaded checking my email. Reviewers offer this service for free. We have lives outside of reading and reviewing. Besides, no one has to read and review any book. Personally, I would rather not review at all rather than leave a bad one because I know how difficult and emotionally-charged it is to write a book.

Mostly, though, I just feel like it’s time to move on. I want to read books because I want to, not because I’m obligated to. I want to feel like I’m getting some kind of return on my investment. It’s simply time for me to focus my limited energy in things that don’t make me feel only half-fulfilled. 

The last two years have been extremely difficult for me. I’ve been sicker than I think I’ve ever been in my whole life as an HIV+ person. I’ve had some real, crushing heartbreaks. I need to surround myself with things that make me feel joy, not extra stress.

From now until I decide differently, I will only take review requests from authors I have reviewed for in the past. I will not be accepting new-to-me authors. If your book is on my TBR, I will do my best to get to it, and when I do, I will contact you about it. 

I don’t plan to review every book I read for pleasure anymore, either. If it’s on my heart to leave a review, I will. Otherwise, I’m going to read for my joy and benefit.

I’m sorry to anyone who has anticipated sending me a review request (I’ve had them turned off for a while in an effort to catch up on my TBR). I may come back to this one day; I don’t know. For now, though, this is what I need to do, and I hope you can respect that.

Here and Gone | My Miscarriage Story

I suffered a miscarriage on July 1, 2019.

Now, I know some of you might think that it’s odd or attention-seeking or have some other negative opinion about my choice to share this so openly and publicly. Perhaps, my transparency frightens or disgusts you. (Why are you here, then? This is not new from me.) Maybe you think I should keep this private. Well, if that’s true, I honestly don’t care what you think. This is my experience, and I’m going to do what I have to do to get through it.

By nature, I am a writer. I process the world, my thoughts, and my experiences through words. Writing alleviates my anxiety and depression because I can take those swirling thoughts out of my head and release them on paper (or screen; whatever works). Writing is my way of coping, grieving, and understanding. We all have our ways of getting through the tough shit in life, so if my way bothers you, you can click that little x in the corner and be done with it.

If talk of pregnancy loss or medical procedures is triggering for you, you might also wanna click that x. Believe me, I will understand. Also, this post is going to contain graphic descriptions of stuff you might find TMI. It just is. This isn’t a pretty topic.

My partner and I have been trying to have a baby for about two years. If you’ve known me for a long time, that might be shocking because, throughout my early adult life, I was against having kids. Growing up as an orphan with what was, for a long time, believed to be a terminal illness along with many years of mental illness, I believed it was better for me not to have kids. I didn’t even allow myself to think of it as a possibility. 

But things change. That’s the nature of life, both fortunately and unfortunately. 

First, HIV became a manageable disease. I no longer had to be scared of dying young. I could expect to live a long and normal life because of the advances in treatment. Even more amazingly, science proved that an HIV+ person with an undetectable viral load of at least six months who adheres to treatment cannot pass the virus to their partners. I never believed I would see a breakthrough like that. 

Then, I discovered that I had been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder in my late teens. I had C-PTSD instead and, with that discovery, came the realization that I didn’t have to worry about possibly passing on a really difficult mental illness to any future children. That was something that had really scared me.

I will always be an orphan, and I’m still pretty frightened that I won’t know how to be a mother. Or that I won’t know how to let my kids just be kids because I didn’t really have a childhood. I dunno if that fear will ever entirely go away, but part of me believes it will push me to be the best mother I can to make up for what I didn’t have.

But anyway, we have been trying for a baby. I wasn’t sure if it could happen for us because I have always had extremely irregular periods. I never know when I’m ovulating, and that’s kinda key for makin’ babies. Still, we kept the hope.

My last period was during the last week of February. I didn’t think much of it because, as I said, I have irregular periods. It’s not uncommon for me to go a few months without one. I had put on about 10-15lbs, too, so I wondered if that had something to do with the delay in my cycle. My weight has affected my periods in the past. 

I was having a lot of fatigue and nausea, but both of those things are normal for me. Thinking back on it, though, the nausea wasn’t random like it typically is for me. I had it around the same time every day at the same intensity. Still, I didn’t think it was all that out of the ordinary for me.

I started to have my suspicions, though, when my breasts hurt for over two months. They just felt really weird. They were sore in a different way to when I’m about to start, and they were super heavy. They felt so strange. And they never hurt for that long when I’m about to start; they’ll maybe hurt for two weeks, but not two months.

Finally, I decided to take a pregnancy test on June 25th. I honestly didn’t expect it to be anything other than negative because they had never been before. 

My partner was at work. It was just me and our dog, Throckmorton, at home when I took it. It was one of those cheap tests that you can buy in large batches off of Amazon. I had actually bought a pack of ovulation test strips hoping to pinpoint the right time, and they came with a few pregnancy tests, too.

It was supposed to take five minutes for the results to show on the test but, within seconds, I got a positive result. I was both elated and terrified. Throcky was the first “person” I told, and it was a long, anxious night as I waited for my partner to come home.

When he got home, I took another test and got the same result. I showed him both of them, and he was happy. This is what we wanted — what we’d been trying for. It was awesome. But, damn, was it brief.

I took another test on June 29th just because I was feeling anxious and like it might not really be real, if you feel me. I wanted it so badly to be real, but anxiety kept telling me that it wasn’t. Maybe the tests were faulty or something? Those two little lines stared me right in the face, but I couldn’t take them at their word.

I accidentally wrote 3/29 on the last test instead of 6/29. I was tired and full of adrenaline. Forgive the error.

Since I hadn’t had a period since the end of February and it was now the end of June, I had no idea how far along I was. I used calculators online and pregnancy apps, and they all kept telling me I was about 17 weeks along. That’s so far! It’s dang near halfway. That ramped my anxiety up about forty notches because, while I’ve been taking prenatal vitamins for two years, that’s too long to go without seeing a doctor. 

I had already had a gynecologist appointment scheduled for the end of July, so I called and had them bump it up to as soon as they could get me in. It wasn’t until July 15th, a whole three weeks away. Excruciating. Still, I tried my best to just be happy and look forward to finding out what exactly was going on.

Unfortunately, though, life had different plans.

I showered late in the evening on June 30th, and when I got out, I noticed light brown discharge and immediately had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Over the next few hours, that discharge turned to light pink spotting, then bright red spotting, and into full-on bleeding. I didn’t sleep a wink that night.

I asked my partner to bring me home a regular stick-style pregnancy test because I desperately needed to see what it said. It, too, was positive.

As soon as I could on the morning of the 1st, I called the doctor. They told me to go to the ER, so that’s what I did. My partner wanted to stay with me, but I didn’t see the point. I had no idea how long I’d be there or what was going to happen, so I made him go home. 

I had never been to the ER in the daytime, so that was a little bit of a weird experience. I’d only gone in the middle of the night before. I was surprised at how quiet and empty it was at nine on a Monday morning. 

I told the intake nurse that I suspected I might be having a miscarriage, and they got me in immediately. I didn’t even have time to sit down before they took me back for my first set of vitals and for the usual round of questioning. I did my best to answer their questions, but since I hadn’t yet been to the OB/GYN, I didn’t know how far along I was or anything. All I knew was that something was wrong. 

Everyone in the hospital was extremely kind to me. I’m sure they felt sorry for me but, either way, I appreciated it. Not a single person was rushed or snappy, and having spent a lot of time around medical professionals in my life, I know that’s a pretty rare thing to experience.

The first thing they did after taking my vitals was put in an IV and take some blood. Then, they sent me to the bathroom to pee in a cup. This was when things got really intense and super scary for me. This is when I knew things were real.

When I went to pee in the cup, I passed a huge wad of tissue. It was about the size of a golf ball and fleshy. It scared me to death. I didn’t know what to do, so I flushed it. I left the bathroom with my bloody pee cup and was so frazzled and frightened that I got lost on my way back. I had to ask someone to help me. The bathroom was literally right around the corner from where I needed to be.

After I got the help I needed, I realized I needed to go to the bathroom again. I felt another wad of tissue come out of me. I practically ran back to the bathroom and saw it in my underwear. It was so scary. I could hardly breathe as I held it in my hand. Again, I didn’t know what to do, so I just flushed it.

That has been the hardest part for me, honestly, feeling like I just flushed my baby down the toilet. 

I finally made my way back to give them my pee and to tell them what happened. They were upset that I didn’t save the tissue I’d passed, but no one had told me I should should something like that happen. I’d panicked and done the only thing I could think to do.

I had a while to wait while they got me in for ultrasounds, so I had too long to think about what happened in the bathroom. I honestly don’t know how I held myself together, but I did. Had I had someone with me, I doubt I would have been able to. I was glad I’d made my partner go home. I was glad I was there alone.

At this point, I texted my partner, my aunt, my brother, and two of my cousins to tell them what was up. I almost broke telling my brother. He had been so happy for me and so excited to be an uncle. My aunt wanted to come up and sit with me, but I told her no. I didn’t want anyone there with me. 

My HIV doctor called me at this point to check on me, which I super appreciated. She said something that I’m continuing to hold onto. She said that this really sucks right now, but it means that I can get pregnant, which is such a good thing. Lots of women suffer miscarriages but then go on to have healthy babies down the line.

I somehow held it together and was called back for the ultrasounds.

First, they did a regular ultrasound that only took a few minutes. The screen was turned away from me, so I couldn’t see anything. The nice woman who did the ultrasounds, like so many of the other nurses I had interacted with thus far, made small talk to try and keep me calm. I could tell that’s what was happening, but I appreciated it.

She then sent me into the bathroom to disrobe. She gave me a sheet to wrap around myself, and when I told her I was bleeding pretty badly, she told me to put a rag between my legs. I did as I was told and hobbled back into the room and onto the table. It was time for the transvaginal ultrasound.

With that probe inside me, I damn near had a panic attack. It took everything in me to try and keep my heavy breathing steady. It wasn’t that it hurt exactly, I was just already so traumatized from the heavy bleeding, what I’d passed in the bathroom, and the ever-growing knowledge that my baby was gone that the ultrasound was just too much. 

The most surreal moment I had was on that table. The room was silent other than my heavy, panicked breathing. She no longer bothered to make small talk. I looked over to my right hand where I held the bloody rag she’d asked me to put between my legs. It was close to my face, and all I could think was, “I’m just staring at this bloody rag?” It almost felt like an out of body experience at that point.

When she was finished, she pulled the probe out of me, and I couldn’t breathe. It was covered in blood. She helped me off the table, and I was horrified to see so much of my blood on it, too. I apologized profusely (silly, I know). A lifetime with HIV, or “poison blood” as I was told as a kid, has made me extremely cautious about bleeding. Anywhere. So, to see so much of my blood on something that someone else was going to have to clean up felt like a nightmare.

I dressed, and she took me back to the room where I’d been waiting before. This was the longest wait yet, as I anticipated getting the results back from all of the tests. They wouldn’t let me have anything to drink just in case I would need to have surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, so I felt like I was dying of thirst. It gave me a much-needed distraction, though.

I spent the next good while texting back and forth with my partner and my family. I tried to watch Supernatural on the room’s TV, but it just didn’t hold it’s usual appeal. 

Eventually, they came and took my vitals again (this was probably the third or fourth time at this point), and a phlebotomist said they needed more labs from me. For some reason, they couldn’t take them from the IV in my arm, so I had to get stuck in my other arm. I honestly don’t even know why I had the IV. They only used it that first blood draw.

Shortly after that, someone came and told me I had low potassium (not uncommon for me), so I’d need to drink a supplement. They also said I had a UTI, so I’d be getting an antibiotic shot for that. And finally, they’d need to do a pelvic exam before I could leave.

I drank the weird, bitter, bubbly potassium supplement as I followed a male nurse into a private room. There, he gave me a shot in my butt (that still hurts) and said the doctor would be in in a minute for the pelvic exam. Again, I had to disrobe and lay on the table, but this time, there was no rag between my legs. I laid there for five to seven minutes waiting and thinking, constantly, about how I was bleeding on the table.

Finally, the doctor came in (with a female nurse) and explained to me that they needed to do the pelvic exam to confirm the miscarriage. He said the HCG levels in my blood were high enough that I should have had a gestational sac on the ultrasound, but I did not. 

The pelvic exam only took a couple of minutes, and he confirmed that I had had a miscarriage. I asked him how far along I’d been because I still had no idea. He said, as far as they could tell, I had been about four weeks along. That’s very early on which I suppose was a blessing. My body took care of it, and I didn’t have to go through a D&C on top of it all. He told me that miscarriages that early on in pregnancy are usually caused because the fetus isn’t going to be viable either from a chromosomal abnormality or some other defect. It sucked to hear (it still does), but it is probably better this way.

He and the nurse were so kind and apologetic. I was (and still am) just numb. 

I’ve been through a lot of sadness and death in my life, and I’ve been through a lot of traumatic medical experiences. This was the worst of both. This was the worst day of my life. I was so overwhelmed by all of it, that I couldn’t even really feel sadness. 

I did all the regular discharge things and got all the instructions on what I’d need to do for the next few weeks: get lots of rest, take my antibiotic, no sex for at least three weeks, no baths, stay hydrated, and to follow up with my doctor in a week or so. They also gave me several things to look out for and instructions to return if they happened.

In a daze, my partner picked me up. I could hardly even speak. He asked me if I wanted to get something to eat. (I didn’t, but I needed to eat. It had been like 24 hours since I ate.) I told him all I wanted was a coffee and to go home and sleep. He held my hand the whole ride home, but I stared out the window. At one point, I told him about flushing our baby down the toilet, and that’s the only time I cried. 

When I got home, I wanted to go to sleep immediately, but I couldn’t. I stayed awake for hours. I was physically and emotionally sore. But I was also overwhelmed by the kindness of my friends who reached out to me in droves on Facebook and through DMs and texts. For the next several days, I had folks offering to come help clean my house for me, bring me meals, and just listen to me. It broke my heart, again, but in the best way, to feel like so many people cared.

I’m still feeling pretty numb. I am mostly angry. I have had a few moments of heartwrenching sadness, but mostly I’m just pissed off. That’s always been my go-to rather than allowing myself to be sad. I know it’s not healthy, but it’s how I’ve survived — that and through writing about my experience and my feelings.

My partner seems okay, for the most part. I think he’s mostly worried about me. I don’t know if it’s sunk in entirely for him. I mean, we didn’t even have a week to enjoy being pregnant. It all just happened so fast.

I believe I was further along than they said I was only because I had been experiencing pregnancy symptoms for about two months. But I guess it doesn’t really matter now.

I know we will try again. I also know that I’ll never forget this experience. I’ll never forget the few joyful yet scary days I thought I was going to bring a new little bean (human bean, we were calling it) into the world. All the moments we laid in bed and talked about what he or she might look like. All the moments I anticipated happening for the next several months. I’ll never forget, and I’ll be angry for a long time that they were taken from us. 

If you’ve read all of this, thank you. Thank you for loving me and for caring about me. I don’t expect anyone to read this, really. I wrote this for myself. Hopefully, it will get the swirling, repetitive thoughts out of my head, and I’ll finally be able to relax a little. Hopefully, I’ll be able to grieve and ready myself for the next time — the time when it ends in joy.